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Packers Have Minimal History Vs. Rookie No. 1 Draft Picks


The Detroit Lions bring the No. 1 overall draft pick from 2009 to Lambeau Field on Sunday in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

But if Stafford doesn't play in the game - and his prospects appear iffy with a knee injury that forced him to miss Detroit's game last week vs. Pittsburgh - that would be somewhat par for the course in Green Bay Packers history.

Strangely enough, the last five times the Packers have faced the No. 1 overall draft pick during his rookie season, that player didn't play in the game. Like Detroit's Stafford, the last three have been quarterbacks - Oakland's JaMarcus Russell in 2007, the New York Giants' Eli Manning in 2004, and Atlanta's Michael Vick in 2001. All were backup quarterbacks at that time during their rookie seasons.

The other two before that were not quarterbacks but also didn't play in the game - St. Louis offensive tackle Orlando Pace in 1997 (he was inactive) and Cincinnati running back Ki-Jana Carter in 1995 (injured reserve).

The calendar goes all the way back to 1991 to find the last time the Packers actually played against the No. 1 overall draft pick in his rookie season. It was Dallas defensive lineman Russell Maryland, who came off the bench and registered no defensive statistics (according to the official press box booklet) in the Packers' 20-17 loss to the Cowboys in Milwaukee on Oct. 6, 1991. Incidentally, Maryland ended up finishing his career with the Packers in 2000.

In the last three decades, three other No. 1 overall draft picks have played against the Packers as rookies - Atlanta linebacker Aundray Bruce (1988), New Orleans running back George Rogers (1981) and Detroit running back Billy Sims (1980).

Like Maryland, Bruce had minimal impact on the Falcons' 20-0 win on Nov. 6, 1988, in Atlanta. He posted just one assisted tackle according to the press box statistics.

On Dec. 13, 1981, Rogers had 26 carries for 70 yards for New Orleans in Green Bay's 35-7 victory in the Big Easy. Rogers was certainly a focal point for the Saints from the beginning, getting the ball on nine of New Orleans first 12 offensive snaps. He gained 16 yards on his first three carries against the Packers but just 54 yards on his remaining 23 totes - just 2.3 yards per rush.

That game is better remembered for what Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey did, as he completed 19-of-21 passes for 218 yards and five touchdowns, two to John Jefferson. That still ranks as the highest completion percentage (90.48) in a single game in franchise history for a quarterback with at least 20 attempts.

If Stafford is able to play against the Packers on Sunday and again on Thanksgiving in Detroit, he'll become the first No. 1 overall draft pick to face Green Bay twice in his rookie season since Sims.

The dynamic running back torched the Packers for 228 yards from scrimmage (20 rushes, 134 yards; two receptions, 94 yards) and two touchdowns in Detroit's 29-7 victory in Milwaukee on Sept. 14, 1980. He scored on a 1-yard run to give the Lions the lead for good at 13-7 late in the first half, and he added an 87-yard TD reception for the game's final points in the fourth quarter.

In the rematch on Dec. 21, 1980, in Detroit, the Packers fared better against Sims, holding him to just 98 total yards (18 rushes, 54 yards; three receptions, 44 yards) and one TD. But the Packers still lost, 24-3.

As far as facing a rookie quarterback as the No. 1 overall pick, two other opportunities for Green Bay in the 1980s didn't materialize. In 1989, Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was inactive for the game at Lambeau Field that season, and in 1987, Tampa Bay's Vinny Testaverde did not play in the Milwaukee contest between the (then) division rivals.

The last time the Packers faced a rookie quarterback as the No. 1 overall pick was on Dec. 21, 1975, when Atlanta's Steve Bartkowski played at Lambeau Field. In a game Green Bay won 22-13, the Packers limited Bartkowski to just 13 completions in 34 attempts for 219 yards, with one touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Packers also intercepted Bartkowski twice and sacked him three times in the game. His statistics compute to a modern-day QB rating of 46.1.

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